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Ibn Ezra had such poor fortune earning a living. what not to.” jewishtimes 3 jan.org/WeeklyParsha Audio Archives: http://www. 27. people would stop dying.org/Audio Interactive.org Subscribers will also receive our advertisers' emails and our regular email announcements.org/Donate Content at Mesora.Mesora. Weekly Parsha W hat was God’s purpose in bringing the Plagues? Maimonides A fundamental lesson on what to accept. send any email message to: subscribe@mesora.Mesora.org/TalkLive Database Search: http://www.Mesora. or is a value: wealth is a blessing. provided the content is not altered.Weekly Journal on Jewish Thought The JewishTimes is published every Friday and delivered by email. This means that those who study Torah are less engaged in pursuing wealth. “If I went into business making shrouds for the dead. To subscribe. 2012 Articles may be reprinted without consent of the JewishTimes or the authors. Weekly Parsha Repentance and divine justice. Contacts: We invite feedback at this address: office@mesora.org/JewishTimes Philosophy Archives: http://www.Mesora. Subscriptions are FREE.org/Search “From the poor comes forth Torah.org: JewishTimes Archives: http://www.Mesora.org/Philosophy Weekly Parsha Archives: http://www.Mesora. Live.Mesora. he said. like Torah? Rules of Teaching students “how” to think is missing from the classroom.Mesora. Audible Sessions: http://www.org Ph(516)569-8888 5 True Religion 8 Divine? 12 Knowledge 1 3 Ten Plagues 1 6 On Astrology 21No Return Which One is the How do we decide? W hat are the criteria? Prophets & Writings How do we prove these works are divinely written. and credits are given.org/Advertising Donations: https://www. and disproving astrolog y.” This does not mean that poverty increases intelligence. Advertising: https://www. .

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family name. since such a claim would not have been accepted by the world when reality denies such claims. other than Judaism. There was never a mass revelation other than upon Mt. The Aztec account actually refers to itself as a "legend" and not a historical event. tolerance or agreement with any element of that idolatrous culture. Judaism traces individuals by name. Islam attempts to gain credibility by adopting Judaism and Christianity. only one religion makes sense. all other religions launched themselves based on belief: you either accept or you don't. Christianity has numerous versions of the same supposed events surrounding Jesus. Moses was shown as representing the true Creator. As God knows all. but his dependence upon Moses unveiled his true beliefs. they and their gods were false and defenseless against God's plagues. incapable of altering natural law. In the end. It is not a matter subject to "proof". Egypt and Moses could not both be correct. All other religions lack historical proof. the ages of those people when they had children. 2012 . Pharaoh admitted this by summoning Moses – not his astrologers – to end each painful plague. when he and all others knew they didn't. His will that Torah remains unchanged throughout every generation teaches that the Torah's ideas are eternally true.CHAIM ONE In contrast. Christianity incorporated the complete Five Books into their religion. Therefore. RABBI MOSHE BEN. But not one religion possesses proof. No individual would agree with Moses that he witnessed miracles together with over 2 million others. as was God and the messages contained in the Ten Plagues. Other religions rely on the claims of individuals. the Five Books of Moses. Pharaoh was stubborn. Last week's Parsha Vaeyra recounts Moses' numerous admonishments to Pharaoh and that Egyptian society steeped in a man made religion. Moses was quite clear. they are applicable to all generations. the dates of their deaths. The Koran claims credit for giving the Book to Moses and recounts many Torah stories within the Koran. Moses would not have been successful transmitting a fabricated story of Revelation at Sinai telling people "you were there. and all of their travels. The eye-witness transmission of a single account of Jewish history proves its truth.5 million people. it fails to provide the story's characters. The Egyptian culture was built on lies. while it also accepts T talking animals as reality. had they occurred. The Jewish people would not have abandoned their true history. And those claims did not appear until generations after the time of Jesus' supposed miracles. Mass fabrication cannot occur. not one claims masses witnessed an event. 27. the world's Governor. thereby confessing their ignorance and exposing the fallacy of those stories and miraculous claims. had Moses been lying about Sinai and the rest of the Torah. A strategically safe position. and even the other major religions accept the entire history of the Jews – the Torah – is testimony to the absolute truth of the entire Torah. But respect must not to be confused with recognition. while Egypt was exposed as a group of charlatans. It is impossible that millions will share a common motive to lie. Both major religions affirm Torah's truth. History does not recount God giving a religion to mankind. following the same method of Christianity in its adoption of the Five Books. Sinai 3324 years ago in front of the entire Jewish nation totaling 2. However. (continued next page) he eighth of Maimonides' 13 Principles of Judaism is that the entire Torah is God's word. and abandon their true history. such claims are without proof. While many other religions claim God spoke to them. There is but One Ruler of the universe. lying astrologers with nothing more than sleight-of-hand tactics. explaining why other religions demand "belief" as a core tenet. Such silence indicates there were in fact no miracles. the child's name. the fact that the Jewish people. They recognize the absence of any proof for their words. Moses showed respect to Pharaoh for his status. Both attempt to attain status as God's religion by copying the Torah. for no one could silence publicly witnessed miracles. jewishtimes 5 jan. Additionally. All historical accounts are verified in the exact same manner: when masses testify unanimously to clear events.Judaism’s Fundamentals TRUE RE LIG ION With one human species. their lineages or travels. we know the event could not have been fabricated." No one would have accepted he was somewhere he was not.

Religions that demand man to believe claims without proof will frustrate man's desire to follow what's reasonable. and intellectual pursuits. All of Torah complies with our human design. The words of our great Kings Solomon and David reveal a religion of tremendous insight that rings true and offers us our greatest moments as we uncover new concepts and marvels. self esteem. science and religion are complimentary. peace. Religions that abhor sex or force man to renounce it. accomplishment. cause man to live in pain. so are our souls and psyches. We are asked to comply with our natures and follow reason. Maimonides wrote. This is because there is one human design. All people receive the identical treatment. accent. God asked that we also lead. health. we are to study the natural world and delight in its wonders. we would be forced to reinterpret Genesis.It is sensible that God gave one religion. Judaism not only offers proof of God's Revelation. can offer man real happiness. music. But we are to not only follow. or as self-deprived monks. since the heart is identical in all men and women. We see this most clearly in the volumes of Talmud where the Rabbis elucidate the Torah's commands with such depth. shall say. He desires all of His creations to attain happiness: "Observe therefore and do them [the commands]. Not one human desire is rejected. evidence and honesty. As there is only one mankind. Like Abraham and David. offering us a deep appreciation of the reasoning contained. In Judaism. Such religions are dissatisfying. Only a religion that recognizes the human design and caters to it. recreation. it also makes sense. attainment of basic physical and social needs. in fact we are to satisfy all of our needs. A heart ailment of any man or woman would not be treated differently based on the color of one's skin. Our God is the God of the universe. for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people that. success. only one religion makes sense. surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people!" (Deut. As our bodies are identical. or culture. We are not to live as unwed priests or nuns. "Had Aristotle proved the eternity of the universe. unlike other religions. 2012 (continued next page) . the sense of belonging. 27. when they hear all these statutes. Happiness and fulfillment are achieved by all men and women following the same path: removal of conflict." We follow reason. laughter. 4:6) jewishtimes 6 jan.

God commands us not to alter the Torah at all. we will courageously take pride in the one true religion.faps. despite their initial disagreement with us.faps.faps. and rejection over popularity. certainly in religious life. to benefit all of mankind. For only through our honest representation of Judaism will other religions come to appreciate the brilliance and perfection of Torah. We are not to silence this truth based on some emotional fear or cowardice.God desires all mankind to be impressed with the one religion He gave the Jews. and we too are respectful to Christians.com http://www. . It hides God's message to all mankind. that he and Egypt could not both be correct.faps. Torah contains absolute truth. Nothing is further from God's Judaism than Christianity's deification of man. Moses was respectful to Pharaoh. It is for this reason that we must denounce the path led by many Jews and Jewish leaders who play "religious apologetics. and God desires this." Our goal is not to be liked by other religions. our message must be truthful.com http://www.com http://www.com http://www.com http://www.All other religions accept fantasy – a violation of God's will – as God wants us to engage the intelligence He gifted us in all areas.All other religions lack proof of Divine origin and design and are false. for all mankind.com http://www. He wants us to lead. Interfaith dialogue and religious apologetics suggest there is. we will shed the desire to be accepted by men and false religions. and we will create the example that will elicit the world's response: “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people!” ■ (Theme continues next page with PROPHETS & WRITINGS) http://www. God revealed Himself and His religion only once.faps.com http://www. Interfaith dialogue lies to other religions. we violate God's will and show no concern for other human beings. at Mt.faps. and their denial of God's Torah commands.com http://www. 27. Just as Moses taught.faps. we too must sustain this eternal Torah lesson that God gave only one religion and that all others must be false. when we do not. But we must be clear with them that we do not accept their religious corruption in any measure. How then does it make sense that new religions should arise? It is clear. as we respect all God's creations. and it is proven: God gave one religion. proof is required. To become the beacon God desires. but to obey God. Muslims and others.com http://www. God is telling us the other nations will be as impressed with Judaism as we are.There is no common ground between Judaism and any other religion. but to share the truth. If we follow God.com jewishtimes 7 jan.faps. for all time. It says that we share something in common. Sinai. 2012 .com http://www. This idolatry is Torah's antithesis. this quote is what God says the other nations will say. clear. and misrepresents God's will for mankind. By hiding it in any measure.com http://www.faps. .com http://www.faps.Religious life must adhere to reason just as any science.faps. and He is our focus. Judaism requires courageous leaders who value truth over friendship. This emotional insecurity to gain favor with other religions hurts Judaism. and not hide the truth.faps.faps.faps. their falsehood.com http://www. Let us be severely conscious that we were not created to cater to men. . pure and undiluted by all social motivations: .Deifying man violates God's commands. Only through our honest condemnation of false religious notions will other religions recognize the fallacy of their beliefs. We must prefer their rejection and speak God's truth. When we accurately represent the Torah. This misleads other religionists and prevents them from learning Judaism's unique nature. .

" It is important to note that the Rabbis sought to "store away" these books. the debate whether Moses wrote the final eight Torah verses (matters subsequent to Moses' death) intends to enlighten us about "ideas." This is not a simple debate over historic fact.Judaism’s Fundamentals intermediary words too within this book must be consistent with Torah. thus. If he were a charlatan. only once he repeatedly predicts the future and all details materialize. Rabbi Shimone's position is that the Torah must all be written by Moses. Divine inspiration. Numbers should be included in the Torah. His commands that we adhere to the Torah and his true predictions. 27. We need not ask him to perform miracles. There was no question whether either book was "Divine. since after due study. Thus. Prophets and Writings. "and Moses died there") and the time frame of Job. then it wasn't clearly validated by a prophet. its "apparent" contradictions were also revealed as harmonious. If the Prophet then tells us certain writings are to become part of Prophets or Writings. Rabbi Yehuda says Moses did not write the last eight verses. The sheer presence of a debate seems to be prima facie evidence of a lack of prophecy and. This validation of these new W writings is no less Divine than Revelation at Sinai and its validation of the Five Books. Sabbath 30b) My friend asked.2) that we affirm a Prophet as true." The Rabbis understood that once a Prophet is deemed a prophet by God' standards. 2012 . His commands are of equal weight to Moses' words. His words are then Prophetic. the Rabbis must have seen the truth of these books. And as the King would not contradict himself. Ultimately neither was hidden away: Koheles was not hidden since it commenced and concluded with "words of Torah. My friend Josh said similarly. Proverbs too was not hidden. he would not have Divine access to future events and all of their details. The Rabbis debate centered only on whether the works in question would be received properly by the masses. Storing away indicates a desire to preserve these works. Thus. as Moses was not yet dead when he wrote of his death. he is not concerned that some of the Torah's verses are of different status. "According to the Torah which they teach you (Deut." Apparently this means that King Solomon's message was consistent (beginning to end) that Torah must be followed. (continued next page) Prophets & Writings DIVINELY INSPIRED? ith His verse in Deuteronomy 18:19. While there is debate concerning who wrote certain verses (how could Moses write. then they shall become a part. Moses wrote these verses with tears as an admission that he desired not to write a falsehood. say. not abolish them. but their concern was not to confuse the masses lacking the skills to unravel the riddles and metaphors of one of the wisest men to have ever lived. as his level of prophecy and writing by God's dictation bestows halachik significance to the Torah over all other works. This knowledge emanates from God alone. he differentiated these verse from all previous verses by not using ink. God obligates us to follow the Prophet. "If the Rabbis had to debate it. But in order not to be accused of writing fallacy. "The proof of the Prophets and Writings may also be connected to the proof of Sinai. 17:11)" applies to the question of "What is Tanach?" " The Rabbis also possess the authority to determine whether certain books will be hidden away or sustained in accessible status. are only possible if he is in fact a Prophet. it can only be held as a work written by someone of potentially high scholarship. the Talmud does not reject any work as not Divinely inspired. Rabbi Shimone contends that Moses wrote those last eight verses. (Tal. This mitigated the concern for certain "conflicting" statements found within the book. Maimonides states (Yesodei Hatorah 10:1. Therefore. God tells us. Parenthetically. thus. but with tears. I'm not aware that any Rabbis got together and debated whether. Talmud Baba Basra 14b-15a teaches who were the authors of Torah. God also threatens our rebelliousness towards the Prophets' commands with punishment by His hand. all jewishtimes 8 jan. It appears this is what Rabbi Chait referred to regarding the Rabbis' debate whether to hide away Koheles and Proverbs due to their "contradictory" content. then we must follow his word.

But please note that his questions below were actually made "during" our discussion noted above." etc. They come to elaborate the Five Books. that their words demand to be studied as divinely inspired texts. Joshua wrote "his book. 27. In fact. we know that all Moses' transmission are of Divine origin. If it's the proof of 2M people hearing God's voice at Sinai." What Rashi teaches thereby. 2012 . God would not endorse Moses. is that these works were written by God's directive. the words of every Prophet – from Moses to Malachi – are equally God's messages. QUESTION: When you say that the writings of a prophet are "Divine".Discussing these remarks above with a friend. Ezekiel was not given prophetic direction to write his own book. Rashi comments. I am merely repeating them as received. A fellow Rabbi added that the Talmud seems to indicate the Prophets wrote "their books" by Divine directives. how is its "lesser" status defined? RESPONSE: Yes. we don't seem to know exactly when the written Torah was actually written. In that case. The only difference. unless it was so. in a cohesive list: QUESTION: To the best of my knowledge. (continued next page) jewishtimes 9 jan. they just heard God's voice. that isn't a proof of the Divine origin of the Torah. is derived from Moses' continual miracle of his face shining light. The Talmud teaches us that the Prophets — men who received God's communications — would not have written books as God's word. So some questions are already answered. possibly due to his living outside of Israel where prophecy was not granted. This explain why its says "Moses wrote "his book". as you indicated. RESPONSE: Our confirmation that all of Torah was Divinely given. or parts of it. my argument being that 2M people didn't see the written Torah. the Rabbis deem it part of the Torah. had he fabricated the entire Torah. Although King Solomon does not say so "within" his work. "His book" means the Prophet was guided (Divinely) to write discrete sections and form a book. nothing more was required. as Rabbi Chait taught. They both have the same Author. I respond after each one. is that Prophets and Writings do not add any new idea that is not already part of the Five Books. But as God produced this miracle as Moses wrote the entire Five Books. I don't know what that means. Does that mean that every word is specifically selected by God? Does that mean that every word has the same importance and depth as the written Torah? If not. nowhere does King Solomon claim within the writings that his words are prophetic or that they should be included in any canon. We trust men inspired by God to be ruthful. QUESTION: I'm not clear what the "proof of Divine origin" is that you refer to. Jeremiah 36 commences with an example of God directing him to write his prophecies. RESPONSE: Talmud Baba Basra discusses which prophet wrote which of our Prophets and Writings. If he tells us his work is prophetic. as he was already proven to be a Prophet. he asked the following important questions. Every word has the same importance and depth as the written Torah. "Ezekiel did not write his own book.

opposing views are not both correct. Yet. As we discovered if I recall correctly. "I know God's intent of this verse. from that place that Hashem will choose. which makes me wonder what to think. when you do not. or another. Microscopically smaller within that are those of your thinking. Ramban. Rabbi Schneerson. If his idea is reasonable. that this is its accurate application. The mandate to follow the Prophets and Rabbis is equal to every other command God gave us at Sinai. if He knows all.) If we don't agree with either Rabbi. Both Rabbis must be followed. RESPONSE: This applies to all areas of Torah. When truth is clearly seen. What we are bound to do is arrive at our best understanding of interpreting the Law. and I can't see a justification for expanding this to include other matters. We see a great cohesiveness among the Rabbis. then we say "I don't agree with the other Rabbi". So how would anyone know what the Divine intent is? At that point. if your views differ so widely?" RESPONSE:: You are correct. ■ jewishtimes 10 jan. But you must understand that in the area of law – halacha – the very "law" is to be created by human intelligence. None of the commentators can say. and despite their conclusions. That is impossible." Of course. But we must say this is precisely God's plan! Man can only use his intellect to derive what he can. In philosophical debates. Ibn Ezra had a particular interpretation on one verse. We are not trying to arrive at Moses' or God's absolute knowledge. His views are not endorsed by Deut. while Rashi said the verse refers to human organs. We don't find intelligent Rabbis debating whether God is physical. or both are incorrect. Numbers are meaningless. I've listened to orthodox Jewish rabbis who seem to be all over the map. So did Rabbi Feinstein. Rashi. Saadia Gaon. upon which to lay claim to Divine origin. and not proof. this refers to matters of "law. had assistance in Creation. regardless of how great he is. our transmission. we must tread lightly. It is our Mesora. spreading false and even superstitious notions. and on and on. You referred to this above citing Deuteronomy 17:8-11. as their debates are not like ours. 2012 . others do not. then he has learned a truth. Is only one accurate. as they are adhering to the system of discerning the Law. in the "absolute" sense of God's knowledge. we know they follow belief. They are debating over deep ideas. No one can tell you that you believe some notion. not today's Rabbis. but I am concerned that there is such a lack of cohesiveness amongst scholars . two Rabbis with opposing views cannot both be correct. There is no reason to differentiate. when it says that if you have a "matter of judgment". 27. then you are supposed to "do according to the word that they tell you. Judaism alone possesses an original event of proof. It is today's teachers who have done a grave injustice to Torah.QUESTION: The only indication that I've seen regarding the Rabbis' judgments in a matter seems to be in Deuteronomy 17:8. we cannot say "I agree with so and so. The Torah is clear on fundamentals. and other clear matters. what is anyone to do but trust in what is clear to their own mind? RESPONSE: If Rabbis suggest contradictory ideas in the sphere of halacha – Jewish Law – then their rulings must be followed by those seeking their leadership." That would be a lie. I'm quite tempted to throw up my hands and say to the commentators. we pay no attention to numbers. for example: is it here on Earth. So did Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. the Baal Shem Tov." The ultimate arbiter is God's words. QUESTION: How does accepting Koheles as Divine help us? The commentators appear to be all over the map with regard to their interpretations. so such statements cannot be made by honest people. Rabbi Chait explained that in matters of philosophy. Orthodox Judaism is even smaller. 17:11. There are even greater numbers of Christians and Muslims. or is it a metaphysical existence? But no one debates the existence of the soul after life. other religions differ greatly as having no original proof. we are honest and accept that we don't have a decision for ourselves. who gets to name the heretic? If not. That is God's will. But if we do see one Rabbi as making sense to us. And those views are not consistent. either one. so Torah "names the heretic." My reading is that this is referring to matters of law judgment. We are fortunate that most Rabbis do not debate matters that border on heresy. someone is wrong. other than to trust my own reasoning. But in matters of philosophy. while all others do not. one of the Rabbis must be incorrect. And Judaism's act of relying on the Rabbis is actually a Divine mandate. We do find debates concerning the Afterlife. God could have intended "all" of the meanings the various Rabbis suggest. has emotions. (And I refer to the great Rabbis. In act. there is great insight to be derived by patiently studying their words. "Who says YOU guys know what you're talking about. Additionally. whether Moses was a true Prophet. QUESTION: I don't mean disrespect to the scholars here. but the rest are heretics? If so. despite their debate. when truth is what we seek. I do not see any of them with doubts concerning major Torah themes. Judaism is a small group. regardless of whether God intended "that" specific meaning. So did Rabbi Kotler." Prophecy has ceased. So although it appears both groups follow a system of relying on the leaders' decisions. The great Rabbis spoke words of wisdom that ring true.and apparently of almost any generation that one starts to wonder if anyone really has the correct ideas. "You cannot be told what to think. But again. Rabbi Soloveitchik had a point of view. Maimonides." So until we see a side that makes sense. Those matters are quite clear to intelligent people learned in Torah and natural sciences. If Rabbis argue here. Judaism has proof of Divine origin.

org www.org www.org/subscriptions www. NY 11559 www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.Mesora.Mesora.israelcancer.Mesora.org www.org www.israelcancer.org www.israelcancer.mesora.org/ReligionofReason https://www.israelcancer.mesora.org/ReligionofReason Disproving astrology jewishtimes 11 jan.Mesora.mesora.www.israelcancer.org/ReligionofReason https://www.org/subscriptions www.israelcancer.Mesora.org/subscriptions www.org Israel Children’s Cancer Foundation www.org Washington Åve.israelcancer.israelcancer.israelcancer.mesora.org www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.Mesora.org www.mesora.Mesora.org/subscriptions www.israelcancer.org www.Mesora.org/ReligionofReason https://www.mesora.org/ReligionofReason https://www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.mesora.israelcancer.org/ReligionofReason https://www.Mesora.org www.org/subscriptions www.org/ReligionofReason (pg 199) https://www.Mesora.Mesora.Mesora.org/subscriptions www.Mesora.Mesora.org www.org www.Mesora.org/ReligionofReason https://www.israelcancer.org/ReligionofReason https://www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.Mesora. 2012 .org/ReligionofReason https://www.org www.org www.org www.org/subscriptions www.org www.israelcancer.mesora.Mesora.israelcancer.org www.org/subscriptions www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.israelcancer.Mesora. #205 www.org www.org www.israelcancer.israelcancer.org www.org/subscriptions www.israelcancer.israelcancer.org/ReligionofReason https://www.Mesora.mesora.mesora.org/subscriptions www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.Mesora.mesora.org www.Mesora.israelcancer.israelcancer.mesora.israelcancer.org/ReligionofReason https://www.mesora.israelcancer.israelcancer.mesora.israelcancer.org/subscriptions www.org www.israelcancer.org/subscriptions www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.israelcancer.mesora.org Lawrence.org www.israelcancer.org www.Mesora.org/ReligionofReason https://www.israelcancer.mesora.org/subscriptions www.org www.mesora.Mesora.org www.org 141www.org https://www.org/subscriptions www.org/subscriptions www.org www.israelcancer.org/subscriptions www. 27.israelcancer.org/ReligionofReason https://www.mesora.israelcancer.org/subscriptions www.org www.IsraelCancer.org/subscriptions www.Mesora.org www.org/ReligionofReason https://www.

ous. When in fact. insecure Jew.” The Rules of • • • • • “All that is in print is true. a Jew who in Maimonides' Letter to Marseilles (reprinted in this will not be able to make decisions about his or her issue): 1) reason.THE FIRST COMMAND KNOWLEDGE In Jewish education for 25 years.” Anyone who accepts as trustworthy anything that is from all others and provable. how Judaism is distinct sense-perception. Torah’s principles must be accepts as trustworthy. not of these three species. so too all others below his stature displeasing smell and the like. The second is a back to the Chumash to determine philosophical thing that a man perceives through one of the five truths to reject popular “Jewish” notions. even Rabbis. but many students are not taught that we go metic’ geometry. Writings are true. become intimately familiar with accept that books other than Torah. jewishtimes 12 jan. and this on grounds of reason. They must be taught that a guish in his mind and thought all the things that he Rebbe can be wrong. missions. Every reasonable man ought to distin. and astronomy. 2012 . Students Vital lessons not being taught : are not asked to take a stand on a position. The third is a thing are certainly not infallible? We must encourage that a man receives from the prophets or from the students to select a position when confronted with righteous. to use their minds to determine truth. Rebbeim and teachers fail to provide students with the tools to think properly. This is a grave injustice to students. This The only 3 criteria for accepting truths. my experience repeatedly teaches me that the most primary “Rules of Knowledge” are not taught. or as when he tion of other Rishonim. Train students to think. 27.” must be rejected. 2) perception. and 3) Torah trans. must be taught. I quote Maimonides verbatim: “Know. write falsehoods and even heresy. as they too are in print.Judaism. trustworthy because of tradition. and this because of Comparative religion. or as when he tastes that this is bitter Shivim Panim L'Torah does not mean “all” views and this is sweet. Teachers do not train students to challenge. Have you taught students that smells that this is a pleasing smell and this is a as Moses erred. • Rambam writes this too. my The 13 Principles are not taught. simple believes everything” (Prov. sight of his eye. or as when he feels that this is hot and this is cold. And many today are this is red and this is black and the like through the not true to the Chumash. that it is not proper for a man to accept as trustworthy anything other than one of these three Jewish ideas must be “Jewish. masters. Students are taught to Do YOU know these matters and possess the answers? If not. Prophets and these topics. of him it is said: “The Students do not know this most fundamental truth of Judaism. outlined develops a weak-minded. They must learn to question what is in print.Rabbinic arguments. The first is a thing for which there is a clear proof deriving from man’s reasoning—such as arith. many Jewish authors. and say: “This I accept as their guide. 14:15). God‘s senses—such as when he knows with certainty that word trumps any Rabbi’s word.” Sounds humorthings. or as when he hears that this sound are correct. The Rishonim admit this in their rejecis clear and this sound is indistinct.

this outcome could have been secured much earlier. In other words. Paroh refuses to heed Moshe’s warning and the plague strikes Egypt. Hashem tells Moshe that this plague will force Paroh to release Bnai Yisrael. The impact of the plague is unbearable and Paroh is forced to release Bnai Yisrael. He delayed this horrible plague until this point. This suggests that although Hashem was prepared to force Paroh and the Egyptians to liberate Bnai Yisrael. for some reason. (continued next page) Ten Plagues jewishtimes 13 jan. In the above passage. They will chase you out from here (Sefer Shemot 11:1).” The Plague of the Firstborn was intended to secure Bnai Yisrael’s freedom The above passage introduces the last of the ten plagues – the Plague of the Firstborn. 27. 2012 . Hashem’s intent in bringing the plagues upon Egypt was not solely to secure the freedom of Bnai Yisrael.Weekly Parsha The Purpose of the RABBI BERNIE FOX “And Hashem said to Moshe: I will bring one more plague upon Paroh and upon the Egyptians and afterward they will send you forth completely. Hashem describes the plague to Moshe. If this were His sole purpose. Moshe then warns Paroh that this terrible plague will be brought upon him and Egypt if he does not allow Bnai Yisrael to leave the Land.

Moshe tells Paroh that had Hashem wished. Hashem spared the Egyptians from eradication. It is this plague that will coerce Paroh to release the people. He fashioned the plague in a manner that limited its damage and allowed the Egyptian people to survive. However. This plague was preceded by nine other plagues. But in truth. Hashem is sending Moshe to Egypt with the mission of leading Bnai Yisrael forth from bondage. These plagues were not designed to secure Bnai Yisrael’s release. I will kill your firstborn son. I say to you send out My son that he may serve Me. Moshe is not instructed to deliver this warning until all of the preceding plagues have been brought upon the Egyptians. demand the release of Bnai Yisrael.” (Sefer Shemot 4:22-23) Hashem revealed to Moshe the Plague of the Firstborn when He assigned him his mission Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitchik Zt”l notes this distinction between the Plague of the Firstborn and the preceding plagues. Why does Hashem describe to Moshe the plague and its warning at this point? It would have made more sense for Hashem to wait until the time had arrived for the final plague. this pestilence did not affect humans – only animals. What was the function of these preceding plagues? (continued next page) jewishtimes 14 jan. Rav Soloveitchik responds that in the context of the discussion described in the passages these instructions are relevant and appropriate. Furthermore. for this reason I have sustained you – in order to demonstrate to you My strength and in order that My name will be declared in all the land. in charging Moshe with his mission. he will be subjected to the Plague of the Firstborn. 2012 . However. Therefore. (Sefer Shemot 9:15-16) The first nine plagues were not designed to secure Bnai Yisrael’s freedom The above passages are part of the warning that Moshe delivered to Paroh after the Plague of Pestilence and before the Plague of Boils. Hashem describes the warning Moshe will deliver before the final plague is brought upon Egypt. He adds that this distinction explains an odd set of passages found earlier in Sefer Shemot. He should have revealed the plague to Moshe and instructed him to warn Paroh. “So says Hashem: Israel is My firstborn son. These plagues had some other objective. And you should say to Paroh. It is odd that Hashem tells Moshe of the final plague before revealing to him the preceding nine plagues. Some other objective was served through the plagues. This is not the function of the other plagues. He tells Moshe to confront Paroh. However. Hashem did not bring the plagues upon the Egyptians solely to coerce Paroh to release Bnai Yisrael. He could have directed the pestilence against the Egyptian people and not only against their livestock. This instrument is the Plague of the Firstborn. Hashem commands Moshe to return to Egypt and assigns him the mission of redeeming Bnai Yisrael.For now. If you refuse to send him out. This means that the Plague of the Firstborn was fundamentally different from the other plagues. and warn him that if he resists. he communicates to him the instructions regarding the final plague and does not mention those that will precede it. He assigns Moshe this mission and reveals to him the instrument through which the mission will be fulfilled. The Plague of Pestilence decimated the Egyptians’ livestock. The Plague of the Firstborn was intended to secure the release of Bnai Yisrael. This passage provides additional confirmation of the message implicit in the first passage above. I could have sent out My hand and struck you and your nation with pestilence and you would have been removed from the land. At that moment. 27. He could have extended the plague’s affect.

His volition was suspended. As a consequence of these freewill choices. They were not designed as a kindness towards Bnai Yisrael. Hashem deprived Paroh of freewill as punishment for his willful wickedness. Rav Soloveitchik explains that this covenant was the basis for the design of the plagues. Mishne Torah. This chapter is referred to as Hallel HaGadol – the Great Praise. He revealed to Avraham that his descendants’ bondage will end with the judgment of their oppressors and their own redemption. The first nine plagues were intended as punishment for the Egyptians. This implies that these plagues were not performed as a kindness towards Bnai Yisrael. Clearly. this suspension of volition implies that the first nine plagues were not designed to secure Bnai Yisrael’s freedom. he was punished by losing the ability to repent. Rashi comments that with this statement Hashem transmitted to Moshe the authority to judge and punish Paroh. he will experience another plague. Even after being warned by Moshe. ■ . the Torah also reveals that Hashem hardened or strengthened Paroh’s heart. He then brought the plagues upon him. (Sefer Beresheit 15:13-14) The dual objective of the plagues was revealed to Avraham These passages were part of a prophecy and a covenant entered into by Hashem and Avraham. The chapter begins with a number of more general praises. He made freewill choices to oppress. Moshe warned Paroh. Moshe was charged with a second mission. the final plague – the Plague of the Firstborn – was intended to force Paroh and the Egyptians to release Bnai Yisrael. He (the sinner) is not provided the volition to repent from his wickedness. Because he first sinned by his own volition and acted evilly to the people of Israel who dwelled in his land … it was the judgment that repentance should be denied him so that he should be punished. He also provides an important insight into the mystery of Hashem’s treatment of Paroh. These plagues were not intended to secure the release of Bnai Yisrael. He tells Paroh that if he does not release the people. he could not repent. However. These plagues were intended to punish the Paroh and his people for their persecution of Bnai Yisrael. The Torah explains that Hashem instructed Moshe to warn Paroh of the consequences of continuing to enslave Bnai Yisrael. The tenth passage begins a series of praises that focus on the acts of kindnesses Hashem performed for Bnai Yisrael – beginning in Egypt. I have appointed you as a judge over Paroh and Aharon your brother will be your spokesperson. Maimonides reconciles the principle of freewill with the passages in the Torah that suggest that freewill can be suspended. 2012 and murder Bnai Yisrael. With these comments. Laws of Repentance 6:3) The suspension of Paroh’s freewill Maimonides’ comments respond to a difficult issue. One of the fundamental principles of the Torah is that human beings are endowed with freewill – the capacity to make their own moral decisions. Maimonides confirms Rav Soloveitchik’s position that the plagues were intended as a punishment for Paroh and the Egyptians. Hashem foretold Avraham of the bondage of his descendants in Egypt. He deprived Paroh of the volition to It is possible that a person will commit a great sin or many sins and the judgment of the True Judge will be that the punishment for this willfully committed sin or sins will be that he is prevented from repenting. He tells Moshe that he has been appointed as Paroh’s judge. Before many of the plagues. This characterization and the contrast between the first nine plagues and the final plague conforms to Rav Soloveitchik’s conclusions. he could not release Bnai Yisrael. The chapter does not mention the nine preceding plagues. If that was their design. Rav Soloveitchik’s conclusions provide a simple solution for this mystery. Therefore. Hashem strengthened his heart… (Maimonides. (Sefer Shemot 7:1) Moshe was Paroh’s judge Hashem speaks to Moshe. But this nation that they will serve I will judge and afterward they will go forth with great wealth. Hashem gave Paroh the ability to withstand the plagues so that he would be punished with additional plagues.And Hashem said to Moshe: Behold. His freewill was suspended in order to assure that he would be punished for his wickedness. Because we have freewill. The first of these kindnesses is identified as the Plague of the Firstborn. Maimonides understands the plagues as an instrument of punishment and not merely as a coercive measure designed to force Paroh to release Bnai Yisrael. rewards us for our observance of them. To the One Who struck the Egyptians through their first born – for His kindness is eternal. This plague was a kindness performed on behalf of Bnai Yisrael. In contrast. Maimonides responds that in this instance Paroh was only deprived of volition after he had acted with terrible wickedness. the Torah tells us that Paroh would have surrendered Bnai Yisrael in response to the plagues if he had freewill. Moshe goes to Paroh and warns him. Therefore. However. A bizarre routine evolved. Moshe’s warnings demonstrated Paroh’s helplessness. This means that the process that unfolded with Moshe’s arrival in Egypt was not only one of redemption for Bnai Yisrael. the plague was brought upon Paroh and Egypt. They (the inhabitants) will subjugate them and afflict them for four hundred years. heed Moshe’s warning. jewishtimes 15 jan. (Tehilim 136:10) Understanding Hallel HaGadol It is customary to recite the 136th chapter of Psalms on Shabbat and festivals. and holds us responsible for their violation. it is written in the Torah. The plagues fulfilled this ancient promise. He was appointed as judge and executioner of the Paroh and the Egyptians. They punished Bnai Yisrael’s oppressors and they secured their release from bondage. despite the suffering that he and his nation experienced. In other words. Paroh was prevented from acquiescing. Also. This is in order that he should die and be destroyed for the sin he has committed… Therefore. One of the greatest mysteries of the Torah’s account of Bnai Yisrael’s redemption is its description of Hashem suspending Paroh’s freewill. And He said to Avram: You should know that your descendants will be aliens in a land that is not theirs. afflict. Maimonides asks: How can we reconcile the principle of free choice with various passages in the Torah that indicate instances in which specific individuals or people have been deprived of their freewill? Maimonides cites as an example the Torah’s description of Hashem strengthening Paroh’s heart and depriving him of the ability to respond to the plagues by releasing Bnai Yisrael. he was deprived of the ability to choose freely. In the course of answering his own question. In itself. Hashem revealed to us His commandments. 27. “I will strengthen the heart of Paroh”. Rav Soloveitchik explains that this appointment reveals the role of the first nine plagues. it would not make sense for Hashem to deprive Paroh of the capacity to surrender Bnai Yisrael.

Any number of men. for we have made this entire matter clear in (the section of that work called) Laws Concerning Idolatry and the Ordinances of the Nations. And since many individuals have busied themselves with those books and have engaged in discussions concerning them. imagining them to be glorious science and to be of great utility. since it is already widespread on the island of Sicily. you would have known directly my opinion regarding all those things of which you have inquired. Know. Every reasonable man ought to distinguish in his mind and thought all the things that he accepts as trustworthy.MAIMONIDES Letter on Astrology perceive in this inquiry that although its boughs are many. all the statements of “the astrologers. The first is a thing for which there is a clear proof deriving from man’s reasoning—such as arithmetic’ geometry. 14:15). 2012 . or all of it—save for a few individuals. The great sickness and the “grievous evil” (Eccles. In any case. as well as in the West and in the East and in the South. he presumes to think of as true—and all the more so if the books are old. or as when he feels that this is hot and this is cold. and this because of sense-perception. great in years but not in wisdom. Thus you ought to know that fools have composed thousands of books of nothingness and emptiness. The thing about which most of the world errs. 2:8). which we entitled Mishneh Torah. which is their common root: namely. 47:13). my masters. the rash fellow’s mind at once leaps to the conclusion that these are words of wisdom. or as when he smells that this is a pleasing smell and this is a displeasing smell and the like. or as when he tastes that this is bitter and this is sweet. And truly fools they were. They did not busy themselves with the art of war or with the conquest of lands. Therefore the prophets called them “fools and dolts” (Jer. and this on grounds of reason. of him it is said: “The simple believes everything” (Prov. they are all branches of a single tree. and have they vainly engaged in these things? This is why our kingdom was lost and our Temple was destroyed and why we were brought to this. and say: “This I accept as trustworthy because of tradition. has not reached you. I myself need to make this clear to you. 12:21 and Jer. but imagined that those studies would help them. for our fathers sinned and are no more because they found many books dealing with these themes of the star gazers. They erred and were drawn after them. the stargazers” (Is. The second is a thing that a man perceives through one of the five senses—such as when he knows with certainty that this is red and this is black and the like through the sight of his eye. The third is a thing that a man receives from the prophets or from the righteous. 4:22). They came to think of themselves as wise men because they knew that science. “for they walked after confused things that do not profit” (I Sam. “the remnant of whom the Lord shall call” (Joel 3:5)—is that thing of which I am apprising you. 8:8). (continued next page) jewishtimes 16 jan. 15) consist in this: that all the things that man finds written in books. as we have made clear in Laws Concerning Idolatry. these things being the root of idolatry.” Anyone who accepts as trustworthy anything that is not of these three species. wasted all their days in studying these books and imagined that these follies are science. that it is not proper for a man to accept as trustworthy anything other than one of these three things. 5:12. It is evident that the compilation we have made of the statutes of the Torah. Letter to Marseilles I It seems to me that it will come to you before this reply. If it had. 27. and astronomy. and he says to himself: “Has the pen of the scribes written in vain” (Jer. or as when he hears that this sound is clear and this sound is indistinct.

as it were. He takes some of that out of which He has made heaven and makes something else out of it. and then gradually waning. then waxing great until it is full. (the science) by which man may know what will come to pass in the world or in this or that city or kingdom and what will happen to a particular individual all the days of his life. 2012 . created all created things out of nothing and that there is no other thing with the Creator aside from the creation that He has brought forth. and India wrote compositions. yet being a single day. Know. Never did one of those genuinely wise men of the nations busy himself with this matter or write on it.) How many amazing conditions are made intelligible by this science. By means of it the onset of the eclipses of luminaries may be known and when they will be eclipsed at any given place. and that the constellation under which one is born will draw him on so that he will be of such and such a kind and so that something will happen to him one way and not another—all those assertions are far from being scientific. It is this calculation of astronomical cycles of which the (Talmudic) sages said that it is wisdom and understanding in the sight of the (Gentile) peoples (Shabbat 75a). my masters. six months daytime and six months nighttime. the wise men of Greece. A thousand books have already been written on this. each one’s period of revolution. by means of it there may be known the cause for the moon’s (yareah) appearing just like a bow. but that there is a single thing that exists together with the Creator. so was He always making it revolve. their number. men of intellect and science—were all in accord that the world has a Governor. faultless proofs to refute that entire position. And know. It is the root of the Torah that the Deity alone (continued next page) jewishtimes 17 jan. and Canaanites produced is a falsehood and a lie. On all this and the like. their declination to the north or to the south. that I myself have investigated much into these matters. He makes a sphere revolve. blessed be He. no (nation) wrote such compositions or committed the error of calling it a science. I also have read in all matters concerning all of idolatry. I now return to the subject of your inquiry. a great controversy among them regarding this entire world. that all the wise men of the Gentile nationsand they are the great philosophers. and the only one who would cling to it would be “a simple one who believes everything”(Prov. in another place the day will be like a month or two months or three—so that a place may be found where the entire year is a single day. 27. the two of them were always together. Just as the Holy One. is making it revolve. Chaldeans. with proofs that each and every one of them rallies to support its position. rather there are lucid and correct. From those books it became clear to me what the reason is for all those commandments that everyone comes to think of as having no reason at all other than the decree of Scripture. the sphere and what is beneath it. that every one of those things concerning judicial astrology that (its adherents) maintain—namely. The first thing I studied is that science which is called judicial astrology—that is. so that it seems to me there does not remain in the world a composition on this subject. and the reason why two stars will rise as one. Chaldeans. but not set together. (1) Most of them say that it is not subject to generation and corruption. to make heaven and some of it to make earth. however. and the reason why a given day at a given place is thirteen hours long and in another place fifteen or sixteen or twenty hours long. I am now making clear to you the main points of those matters that are the mystery of the world. namely. they are nothing. the sphere not revolving of itself. (In one place the day and the night will be of equal duration. This is an exceedingly glorious science. He makes whatever He pleases. by means of it there may be known when the moon (levanah) will or will not be seen. I already have a great composition on this subject in the Arabic language (namely. for that was their religion in those days. But the wise men of Greece—and they are the philosophers who wrote on science and busied themselves with all the species of science—mock and scorn and ridicule these four nations that I have mentioned to you. Egyptians. and sometimes. but that as it is now. if He pleases. and the reason why one day will be long and another day short. (3) Among the philosophers there are those who maintain—just as the prophets maintained—that the Holy One. all of which is undoubtedly true. There are lucid. the course they follow. but that I have read it and have understood its subject matter and have plumbed the depth of its thought. who was always the same as He is now. it was and it will be forever and ever. never was one without the other. Now the great controversy is over this point. my masters. having been translated into Arabic from other languages. other than the Chasdeans. blessed be He. they are stupidity. that the science of the stars that is genuine science is knowledge of the form of the spheres. my masters. Canaanites. 18:6). Know. that something will happen one way and not another. 3:19). Persia. on this point there is no controversy among men of science. faultless proofs refuting all the roots of those assertions. or one who wishes to deceive others.Know. their revolving to the east or to the west. They have many books advancing a lucid proof for this. and Egyptians. But as for these assertions of the stupid astrologers. and this is the very point that Abraham our Father discerned. But to bring forth something out of nothing is impossible. Do not imagine that those refutations are mere assertions and that we therefore should not put our trust in them. (2) Among them there are those who maintain that this sphere has come into being and that the Deity has created it. and it was always being revolved. “like the clay in the potter’s hand” (Jer. Sometimes He will use some of that clay. From that thing which exists together with Him. and the orbit of every star and what its course is. and they rally proofs to refute their entire position “root and branch” (Mal. The wise men of Persia also recognized and understood that all that science which the Chasdeans. There is. 14:15). the Guide of the Perplexed) with lucid proofs for every single commandment but this is not required of us now. their measure.

or this fly that was torn to pieces by a spider. from the spheres and the stars it flows and spreads through this (lower) world—everything that is. but that it eternally has been and will be just as it is. There is no difference for them between this individual who was torn to pieces by a lion that happened upon him. also maintain that whatever happens to each and every human being is due to chance. 32:19). whoever does not acknowledge this is guilty of radical unbelief and is guilty of heresy. then. And know. 26:14). maintain that what happens to individuals is not due to chance. All these. thereby coming into being. that it is one of the roots of the religion of Moses our Teacherand one that all the philosophers also acknowledge—that every action of human beings is left to them and that there is nothing (continued next page) jewishtimes 18 jan. All these things are true. Hence. that all these things involve no damage to religion. The prophet explained: “Whose eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men. And they are in accord that the power of the Creator flows first upon the spheres and the stars. I have explained the lucid proofs of the existence of the Creator and that He is one and that He is not a body or corporeal in any respect. performs signs and wonders through the angels. in conformity with His will. ( 2 ) Those who maintain that the Deity has created it out of that matter which always exists by Him. He brought forth this world out of nothing. 32:4). And not only this.. to give every one according to his ways. The summary of the matter is that they maintain that what happens to each and every thing—be it man or beast or trees and minerals—is all due to chance. but rather due to chance and one of those things that happen by chance. and neither the constellation under which one is born nor nature will avail against it. If you maintain that that hardship is not an affliction brought on by your sins. Furthermore. They maintain that the spheres and the stars possess souls and knowledge. It is said as well of those human beings who are warring with one another over a great kingdom. I shall bring hardship upon you. are the three sects into which the wise men of the world fall. in turn. and that is the religion of Moses our Teacher. comes from the Holy One. or a rock’s breaking loose from a mountain and falling upon a tree or upon another rock and breaking it. 1:30) and every tree and every species of grass and every one of the species of minerals—the whole has the Deity as its maker. and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. with proofs. but what is more I have understood from the sayings of the sages in all of the Midrashim that they maintain as the philosophers maintained. In addition. But the being of all the species and the things comprehended in the entire world—in which there is not the activity of a living soul—all of this stems from the power of the spheres whose root. so do these philosophers maintain that all these occurrences in the nature of the world come through the spheres and the stars. the sages maintained: “There is no death without sin and no affliction without transgression” (Shabbat 55a). There is no controversy whatever between the sages of Israel and the philosophers on these matters... this one being poor and that one rich. a philosophical treatise]. blessed be He. This is not due to any cause coming from the stars. or this mouse that was torn to pieces by a cat. ( 3 ) Those who maintain—just as all the prophets did—that there is no other thing that is with the Deity. blessed be He. I too shall walk with you in the wrath of chance” (Lev. that they are like a pack of dogs warring over a carcass. I have resolved all the great difficulties that they have raised against us on account of our maintaining that the Deity has created everything that exists out of nothing. my masters. as I have made clear in those chapters [in the Guide of the Perplexed. that everything happening to human beings is a (just) decree and judgment. All three of these sects of the philosophers. I have shattered all those proofs that the philosophers advance as proving that the world was not created. that the true religionists. and that when He wished. The controversy lies in this. is simply fortuitous. 27. All this. from the earliest antiquity down to now. why then I Myself shall heap more of that chance upon you—as it is written: “And if you walk with Me in (the way of) chance. Just as we maintain that the Holy One. 2012 . through a power coming from the spheres and the stars. Neither is there a difference between a roof’s falling upon and killing someone. Everything that comes into being in this lower world—namely. they maintain. this one having children and that one being childless—all the philosophers maintain that this is due to chance. I myself have already written a great composition in Arabic (Guide of the Perplexed) on these matters. it is not due to any cause coming from above. 26:2728). It is regarding this that the Torah warned and bore witness and told Israel: “But if you will not hearken to Me” (Lev. but rather to judgment—as the Torah says: “For all His ways are judgment” (Deut. I myself have already made it clear.is primordial and that He has created the whole out of nothing. (l ) Those who maintain that the sphere is not a created thing. which maintain that everything is made by means of the spheres and the stars. just He Himself. This is a root of the religion of Moses our Teacher. All of these three sects are in accord on the following point. every “living soul” (Gen.

work upon human beings in this world and in the world to come. For I was very busy with many Gentile affairs. Rather. The position of the philosophers who maintain that these things are due to chance is also regarded as a falsehood by us because of the religious tradition. They maintain that it is impossible that a given thing should ever change. “But look.to constrain or draw them. It is possible that Reuben could become a perfumer. Never will Reuben be anything other than a tanner and poor and childless. Hence it was commanded and told to him: “Do this and do not do that. it was to actualize Abraham’s potential. “for His ways are not like our ways. It is possible that the situation will change and be reversed. We do not know the end of the Holy One’s wisdom so as to know by what decree and judgment He required that this should be this way and that that should be the other way. Three disagreements are to be found in these matters. Or there may be an allusion in those words. rich. The position of the astrologers is given the lie by reason. Here is Reuben. and his children stand before him. I would not be replying now since I have no leisure. if he so pleases. or they may have been said with a view to the times and the business before him. 55:8). We maintain that it is not due to chance. since something else draws him on—against his will—to be this and not to be that. but rather that this situation depends on the will of “Him who spoke. turn into a tanner. or these two positions. judge in my favor. There is no influence or constellation under which one is born that will draw him in any manner toward any one of these ways. and his children have died in his own lifetime. shake loose of them. (3) The true way upon which we rely and in which we walk is this: We say regarding this Reuben and Simon. are regarded as falsehoods by us. Maimonides means they are dealt a trail through which they will emerge with a greater good. ■ jewishtimes 19 jan. we find. my brothers. every single individual would lack the power to do anything he set his mind to. (1 ) The philosopher will maintain that this is due to chance. that there is nothing that draws on the one to become a perfumer and rich. a tanner. (You surely know how many of the verses of the holy Law are not to be taken literally. Imagine this situation. 2012 . of what use then is the command or the Talmud? The roots of the religion of Moses our Teacher. Thus we ought to know that what happens to human beings is not—as the philosophers maintain—like what happens to the beast. [But not afflicted in the senses that they are sinners. Similarly it is not proper to abandon matters of reason that have already been verified by proofs. of what utility would the Torah and the commandment and the Talmud be to a particular individual? For in that event. for the eyes are set in front. for it was thus fixed by the power of the sphere at the time of his birth. ) A man should never cast his reason behind him. for it is not fitting for a man to abandon the prevailing law and raise once again the counterarguments and replies (that preceded its enactment). There is no nature in the world and no power emanating from a star that caused this individual to be or not to be thus. (2) The second position is that of those who believe in judicial astrology and whose sayings you have heard and whose follies are widespread among you. Since it is known through proofs of reason that it is impossible for the thing to be literally so. and masters. and depend on the words of a single one of the sages from whom possibly the matter was hidden. 33:9). On this account. [For] either some iniquity of theirs caused this. my masters. poor. and have children. in the Commentary on the Mishna and in the rest of the compositions. Do not censure me. This is a root of the religion. as the philosopher maintains. grow rich. I know that you may search and find sayings of some individual sages in the Talmud and Midrashim whose words appear to maintain that at the moment of a man’s birth.” We have made clear many of the things involved in these matters in most of our Arabic compositions. But the philosopher maintains that this is due to chance. This was not commanded as a means of suffering so that Abraham might thereby be ‘owed” a subse- quent good. the translator [of the Aramaic Targum] rendered it in a form that reason will abide. and (the world) came into being” (Ps.] The summary of the matter is that our mind cannot grasp how the decrees of the Holy One. refute the position of these A stupid ones—in addition to reason’s doing so with all those proofs that the philosophers maintain to refute the position of the Chasdeans and the Chaldeans and their associates. the stars will cause such and such to happen to him. Similarly. for his own good. for correct reasoning has already refuted. and a subsequent good will be a “reward”. all of this is a (just) decree and judgment. Rather. just as it was fixed by the power of the sphere at the time of his birth. for the writing makes it clear that I wrote it to fill a present need. These two ways. he will follow the counsel of the wicked and run with thieves and hide with adulterers. And if Reuben repents and mends his ways and searches his deeds and walks in a straight path. a man will worship God and become wise and sit in the house of study. and witness his children’s death. It also is regarded as a falsehood by us because of the religious tradition. neither are His thoughts like our thoughts” (Is. many have acted in this way and yet have not succeeded. for if the matter stood thus. he will be punished with stripes and impoverished and his children will die and the like. If a man says. 27. a perfumer. What we have said about this from the beginning is that the entire position of the stargazers is regarded as a falsehood by all men of science. it is impossible for Simon to be anything other than a perfumer and rich and with surviving children. Amen. We rather are obliged to fix in our minds that if Simon sins. and the other to become a tanner and poor. Do not regard this as a difficulty. or they are now afflicted in order to inherit something even better than this. friends. blessed be He. and it is possible that Simon could become impoverished. all those follies that they have maintained. for the brevity of these remarks. not in back. The Deity knows that if Rabbi Pinhas had not sent a messenger who “urged me till I was ashamed” (II Kings 2:17) and did not leave my presence until I had written it. Farewell. 55:10). by means of lucid proofs. This is the position of the philosophers. And if he so pleases. An example is when God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. he will grow rich and will succeed in all his undertakings and “see (his) seed and prolong (his) days” (ibid. this is no proof.” why. And here is Simon. All this is simply fortuitous. may you increase and be exalted forever.

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is required numerous signs and wonders. If it is genuine. Because man is the master of his moral destiny.” If that is the case. Each plague displayed a di erent aspect of Hashem’s supreme might and strengthened the growing belief of the people in His Existence. e demise of Pharaoh contains a sobering lesson. there is an exception to this rule. jewishtimes 21 jan. “And Egypt will know that I am the Lord when I increase my signs among them. is is clearly enunciated in the verse which states. for he sinned of his own accord initially and did evil to the Jews who dwelled in his land. “I do not desire the death of the sinner but that he abandon his evil path and live. 2012 . us for Judaism the ability of the sinner to repent is of paramount importance. Had Pharaoh relented under the pressure of the blows and released the Jews. Our task in life is to perfect our souls through pursuit of truth and righteous behavior. 27.” e worst sinner has the option to do Teshuva at any point. He asserts that there is a unique punishment reserved for a particular type of sinner whose evil is so egregious that Hashem removes his capacity to repent in order that he receive his just punishment. “ erefore it says in the Torah. ■ is week’s Parsha. Rambam cites Pharaoh as an example of this phenomenon saying. Bo. Justice demanded that repentance be withheld from him so that he be punished and therefore Hashem hardened his heart. Man is endowed with the divine soul which enables him to perceive truth and freely choose his life’s path. it is di cult to comprehend why Hashem would “harden” Pharaoh’s heart as this would seemingly run counter to the stated objective of the signs.” We can now make sense of the opening verse of Parshat Bo. ‘And I will harden the heart of Pharaoh’.” We must ask. ere are no internal or external factors which pre determine the choices he will make. it would have been bad for the Egyptians as it would have terminated the “learning experience” of the plagues.m m m m m Point of m m m m m m m m m m m Weekly Parsha No Return RABBI REUVEN MANN However. Hashem says. Every good deed empowers the soul and elevates our spiritual moral. Every sin strengthens the forces of instinct and weakens our ability to overcome them. why did Hashem harden Pharaoh’s heart? It would seem that the goal of the signs was to convince the Egyptians of God’s existence and absolute mastery of nature and thereby inspire them to renounce idolatry and embrace the creator. May we always act in a manner which justi es this optimistic attitude. it would be accepted and earn him a share in the world to come. e power of free will is such that man is never defeated by sin but always retains the capacity to correct his aws and return to the path of righteousness. even on his death bed. Full con dence in our capacity for goodness is essential to our mission in life as individuals and people. according to the Rambam. Our most precious asset is the power to choose between good and evil. begins with Hashem’s instruction to Moshe to “Come to Pharaoh for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants in order to place my signs in his midst. One of the most fundamental principles of Judaism is that of Free Will. G-d wanted to give the Egyptians a chance to obtain proof of His Existence and absolute power. he is subject Reward and Punishment.

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